Where’s Bunga? Tracking Orangutans with Drones and Gnu-Radio (v2.0)


I has taken 8 months to complete this writeup, but better late than never. It’s been a mixture of life and things going (too) well at Oxbotica.

Anyway, the TL;DR is that this is a summary of my trip to Borneo in May this year with v2.0 of my drone based orangutan tracking system, developed in partnership with International Animal Rescue (IAR). The story of v1.0 and why one would uberhaupt need to track orangutan’s in the jungle, and why using a drone is useful can be found in this post.

As an interesting aside, the v1.0 system got lost in a tree somewhere last time. But a few months after my return somebody randomly stumbled across the drone bits in the jungle (see top right picture in the collage below).

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Marine Litter Mapping

DSC_1110Update: this has now morphed into https://www.theplastictide.com/

A project I have been thinking about and wanting to do for a very long time is to build a fully autonomous litter collecting robot. This driven by the annoyance I always feel when passing a nearby park, littered with Twix wrappers, coke cans, and the like. Challenging? Very much so. Impossible? No. You just have to pick your constraints.

I wish this was the blog post I would explain how I built the robot and how it all works, including snazzy youtube video. However, while I have already started down the path I still have a long (but fun!) way to go. In particular my Orangutans have been keeping me busy and will continue to do so for a while. I have also changed my professional affiliation but that’s a topic for the next post. It does explain though why my interest was piqued when Peter Kohler (GIS expert from SESexplore, and Fishackathon fame) told me about his project to raise awareness around marine litter. And that is the real topic of this post.

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Taarifa Hackathons: Boston, London, Dar Es Salaam

taarifa_logoA lot has changed since I last blogged about Taarifa. We have been the recipient of a World Bank Innovation Fund grant and are going through the Geeks Without Bounds Humanitarian Accelerator. Work is really kicking off in earnest now and if you follow the project you will see much happening over the next two months.

In order to improve the platform and grow the community we are running a number hackathons around the world. You are hereby cordially invited to come hack on data, software (front and back end), hardware, and all the bits between in

The Challenge

There’s not much in the way of access to clean water in Tanzania. In the informal settlements, there are a bunch of water points, but many of them are broken. Rather than a continual process of putting in new ones, the local water engineers want to fix the existing ones – but they don’t know where the broken points are. This also prevents large-scale response organizations from accurately deploying resources (and seeing what initiatives are already working).

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CDAC Workshop: What does the future of digital humanitarian response look like?

typhon_social_media_mappingToday I attended the CDAC Workshop Digital Humanitarian Response – What Should the Future Look Like?

Organised by Justine McKinnon from Standby Task Force and Jessica Roland from Translators Without Borders, it was attended by 25 odd (operational) people from various humanitarian organisations (MSF, Red Cross, World Vision, ACAPS, CDAC …) with among them quite a few familiar faces.  The aim of the workshop was quite ambitious and the question was not fully answered but it triggered some good discussion and useful connections were made. (BTW: What will happen to all the post-its? They never got discussed !?)

I managed to scribble down some remarks that stuck with me and these are dumped below. Its only a small, random subset of what was talked about but generally very similar in content to the Rescue Global workshop I wrote about in my last post.

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Digital Humanitarians and Disaster response: A Discussion with Rescue Global

I recently attended a workshop with Rescue Global (RG) and thiRescue-Global-Logos blog post captures some of the discussion and points that are interesting and useful to digital humanitarians like myself. The better we understand how disaster response works (or doesn’t work) the better we can build our tools and get them used in anger.

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RHoKers Working with MSF in the Philippines

rhok4Last weekend I organized the fourth edition of the Random Hacks of Kindness event in Southampton, UK. Again we were the only event in the UK, and this time it seemed even the only one in Europe. We had some excellent and relevant problem statements lined up and registrations came in nicely.

I was therefore quite surprised that the percentage of people that actually showed up was lower than usual. Together with the fact that one of the main domain experts (Ivan Gayton from MSF) was no longer able to make it in person had me a bit worried. However, it turned out this was really a blessing in disguise.

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RHoK 4

rhoksoton211I’m happy to announce that Random Hacks of Kindness will be coming to Southampton for the 4th time! Again with help from Alejandro Saucedo and HackaSoton.

During the weekend of 6-7 December 2013, The University of Southampton will be one of the satellite cities as part of the global Random Hacks of Kindness Event!

See below for the problem statements. This time around Im particularly interested in any UAV related problems.

Twitter hashtag: #rhoksoton

Eventbrite - Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Southampton

We are proud and very grateful to be supported by Enterprise and Digital Economy at the University of SouthamptonMicrosoft Gadgeteer, Business Analyst Mentor,  ScanToSecure, and ATASS.

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Drones for Humanity and Drone User Group Network UK

rhinoOne liner summary: If you are interested in applying drone/UAV technology (or are already doing so) to humanitarian/social/conservation related problems, and you live in the UK. then get in touch.

I have worked with drones quite extensively in the past, including some work with the BBC, and still do in various ways now. I have to say, though, that I dislike the term drone and much prefer to use the term UAV or UAS. But that’s a different story.

I have also always had an interest in international development, social issues, and education. This has led to me running numerous Random Hacks of Kindness events, giving talks on ICT4D, and volunteering as a STEM Ambassador. I recently organized a NodeCopter event with the local Makerspace and have talked about UAV technology to groups as diverse as 11-13 year olds to The Ladies Luncheon Club where the average age is 65.

Inspired by the recent DroneConference in the US, a coffee with the founder of ShadowView, and the enthusiasm of the UAV guy at Doctors Without Borders, I am now looking to reach out to similar minded people and see if maybe we can set up a Drone User Group chapter here in the UK? Founded in the US by Timothy Reuter, their tagline is: Promoting the Use of Civilian Drone Technology for the Benefit of Humanity. They also recently announced a drone social impact award. I contacted Timothy and he was very supportive of the idea.

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The Second London DataDive

diveIts 23:06 as I type this on the train on the way back from the second UK DataDive. I attended the first one in October last year after hearing about DataKind on rce-cast. In a nutshell DataKind are a non-profit who work together with charities, NGO’s and related organizations to help them collect, manage, and analyze data so they can be more effective. So its like RHoK but focused on data analysis and with a stronger sustainability angle.

I have good memories from the last one and the turnout and organization was very similar this time around. Like last time I could only make it for the Saturday and my employer was kind enough to cover travel costs. Charities selected to participate were:

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